Allen Voivod

Instagram 101We’re looking back on the Instagram month for members of our “A-Ha!” Tribe, when we kicked things off with an intro-level webinar, Instagram 101: Your Hot ‘n Happenin’ Primer (Diving Into the Leading Social Network of the Mobile Movement). One of the things that we think is particularly powerful about Instagram is its take on hashtagging.


Brief Hashtagging Primer

For those who need the quick update, a hashtag – aka #, the pound sign – when attached to the front of a word, phrase, or acronym (like #AhaTribe) turns that “hashtag” into a clickable link. And when you click on it, you’ll see a list of all the other posts using that same hashtag. It works on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest as well as on Instagram.


Hashtagging on Instagram

Hashtags can be added on Instagram posts in both the description of the photo or video you post, and in the comments on those posts. You’re limited to 30 hashtags per post, and as you might expect, you should only use ones that are relevant to your business and your individual posts. Because you get so many hashtags to spend, people take advantage of it, and hashtag liberally!

This is good news for you, because it allows you to see how people are thinking about your business, your industry, the products and services you and your competitors deliver, and so much more.


The New Wave of Search

Instagram Keyword Research Instagram is also the new way to do keyword research! For example, if you went to Google’s Keyword Planner Tool, and looked up “Star Wars,” the phrase “Star Wars Day” would not show up.

Yet on Instagram, “#starwarsday” is the #2 most popular hashtag used (after #starwars itself). 137,000 posts and counting. This screenshot from our Instagram 101 presentation elaborates a bit one on the keywords to explore.

Note that the ONLY way to do keyword research on Instagram is to do it via hashtags. As with Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, you can make up any hashtag you like and use it at will (you don’t have to set it up or register it anywhere).

Before you use a new one, however, definitely do a search on it to make sure it’s not being used, or that it’s being used the way you want it to.

A personal hashtag story: Our state’s American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” Luncheon was happening (this was a couple years ago), and they wanted to use #GoRedNH as the hashtag. We checked it first (like we always do!), and discovered that #GoRedNH was already being used as a rallying cry by the state’s Republican Party. (Then, as now, NH is a “blue” democratic state.) No go!

So do your hashtag homework, since this is how more and more people are communicating with each other and how the gigantic masses of Instagram users are self-organizing the content they share, for your research and for the effective tagging of your own pics to get them in front of the right audiences at the right times!


Want to get successful with Instagram? You can get access to the full 101 Webinar AND a second Instagram Webinar plus a bonus interview with Instagram expert Sue Zimmerman in our Instagram Biz Breakthrough Program. Or you can get on-demand access to more than two dozen training webinars PLUS interviews, Q&A sessions, and a fantastic private networking group in the “A-Ha!” Tribe. Either way, you’ll be taking a great step in the direction of your Instagram success!

email-marketing-mavensLast week, we had the pleasure of again working with Heather Jackson, New England Regional Development Director for Constant Contact, for a half-day workshop entitled “Digital Marketing 2015: Learn, Have Fun, Make It Work.” (That’s us with Heather and other “A-Ha!” Tribe members who attended the workshop.)

Since my phone was running the Meerkat feed, and there was no WiFi available, I got to take notes instead of tweet them! So here are the pearls of wisdom I pulled from Heather’s presentation, “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Email Marketing But Were Afraid to Ask!”

Heather was also part of the latest product in our “A-Ha!” Shop, the Email Marketing Biz Breakthrough Program. To celebrate its debut, you can pick it up from now through April 10th for just $20 (normally $67) when you use promo code BLOGEMAIL at checkout!


Entrepreneurs want to email, but they’re afraid to overwhelm people because of all the email they get themselves, and they empathize!

Why email? 99% at least see your name and subject line. (Compare that to social!)

What to email? Well…

  • What’s valuable to you? What’s an email you always open?
  • What do YOU know that they don’t?
  • Help them avoid mistakes.
  • Tips and tricks of the trade.
  • Favorite things about your industry.
  • Help people know you better. Insurance company example – after they added the Red Sox schedule and a local minors schedule, and a recipe, those became the most clicked-on things.
  • Give away the farm. Show people you’re the expert. People won’t decide to become as good as you are and take business away from you!
  • From Pat Flynn – can you give people at least a tiny little win?
  • What you have access to that they don’t.
  • Original isn’t required – just interesting, relevant, helpful.

60% of email is read on a mobile phone. That has implications for what to send and when to send it – and busts the idea that there’s an ideal time/day each week to send it.

Less is more. Don’t put your whole blog post on there! In fact, not only will it not all get read, you won’t know whether it was or wasn’t. You’d rather drive people off the email and onto your website to check out your whole content.

You gotta look good! And you must have it through a service provider – best reasons why include: better management of a contact database, better measurement data, and regulatory 1-click unsubscribe compliance.

Make it clear what you want people to do. Images are going to get more clicks. Also, image must link out to some place on your website. (Even the homepage!)

Don’t let your image descriptions be blank or “IMG2387.jpg” – message! And if the image has all the info, you need it in text in the email, too.

***Make your call to action be on the first scroll for mobile!***

“Now, Later, Never.” That’s how you weed through your inbox. You want to get people to “Now.” And since less is more, then you train people to know that your stuff won’t take long, so they’re more inclined to “Now.”

Who’s it from, what’s the subject line – two critical items to get the open.

2 seconds to get someone’s attention with a name/email, 2 words in the subject line to get them to even read the rest of the subject line!

Magazine cover teasers – still the art of perfection!

***What is the mindset of your customer in the moment you’re sending the email? How can you help them best at 2pm on a Thursday? 8pm on a Saturday? Be relevant to your ideal customer in the moment they need to hear from you.***

Subject Line (and Headline) Formula: Number or ?  + adjective + keyword + promise

Funny makes money!

80/20 rule for value versus promotion. 80% tangible (free!) value for the reader, 20% promotional material.

Monthly is most common for regular email sending, but… Ask yourself: “When are my readers likely to take the action I want?” THAT’S when to send it. Mobile has changed the game about when to send, because people aren’t at a desk 9a-5p.

Start with when’s NOT a good time, then what’s the right mindset, then survey your audience about their preferences, to get at a good time to send.

How to split test: Split your list, send the exact same email to different people on different days. Which is the best day? Then, which is the best time on that day? If it doesn’t matter, then use the subject line and the content to focus on the value you deliver. Try different value propositions.

Repurpose and reuse the same content across multiple platforms – it’s totally cool to do it!

Content curation helps you mix up what you put out, present yourself as a well-rounded expert who’s willing to freely share resources. Also creates goodwill with the people whose content you’re sharing.

Where to get ideas for email content, and how to handle it:

  • Feedly – RSS reader to pull in your feeds for content sharing. (Flipboard, too!)
  • Google Alerts, Email Newsletters, Social Media also for content discovery. Retweet a follower once a day (or more!) to fill out your content.
  • Scheduler: HootSuite, Buffer
  • Engagement: MarketMe Suite (like Nutshell Mail)
  • Events are great sources for curated content.

Be curious! Be you! Be fun! Don’t overthink your content strategy. If something helped you, feel free to share it.

***Your social media voice should be your voice after a glass of wine!***


Now, don’t forget: The Email Marketing Biz Breakthrough Program is just $20 (normally $67) when you use promo code BLOGEMAIL at checkout from now through April 10th. Get yours today!

email-marketing-mistakes-aha-tribeIn the “A-Ha!” Tribe, February is the month for Email Marketing Mastery, and the first of two private webinars for Tribe members is “Email Marketing Reloaded: The Top 9 Mistakes People Make With Their Email Marketing – And, of Course, How to Fix, Avoid, and Stop Making Those Mistakes Anymore!”

We ran this one countdown style, and to give you a taste of the Tribe, I’m going to share #9, #8, and #7 with you here.

#9: Ignoring Transactional Emails

What’s a transactional email, you ask? It’s any email triggered by someone action. Order confirmation emails (triggered by order placement, welcome emails to subscribers (triggered by email sign up), notifications of comments (triggered by, well, making a comment!) – these are all examples of transactional emails.

Many folks fail to pay attention to these emails, and thus send out missives like this:

Dear Allen Voivod,

Thank you for purchasing [Thing] version 1.21.25.

The product license number is: ########

The product download links are:

Macintosh Universal Binary (required for 10.6, 10.7, 10.8 and 10.9): [link]

Macintosh PowerPC only: [link]

Windows: [link]

Windows x64: [link]

Please note: the links are only valid for 7 days. If you require another link, please contact quoting the order reference number.

Dry as a bone, right? No personality, no emotion, no brand connection. It’s also an opportunity to solicit testimonials and promote cross-sells, just to give you two other ideas. These are set-it-and-forget-it things. Make a list of all your transactional emails, and you practically never have to worry about it again. Meanwhile, those emails go to work for you, not against you, on a daily basis.

#8: No Autoresponders

If people sign up to receive email from you, do you just leave them hanging?

According a Marketing Land review of MarketingSherpa data, about 3 out of 4 online businesses are not taking advantage of the opportunity to attract more email subscribers with a series of automated, value-packed emails.

Autoresponders aren’t just for lead generation, either. They can also be used to drive a sales process, automate support follow-ups, prepare attendees for events, or segment an audience.

Check with your email service provider and find out what kind of autoresponder options are available to you. Major services like Constant Contact, MailChimp, and Aweber all offer them as part of their subscription packages, and larger systems like Infusionsoft and Ontraport bundle them as part of a larger package of services.

#7: Not Including Social Sharing Options

We’ve heard the argument before, and it sounds something like this: “If I’m trying to get people to subscribe to my email by offering exclusive content, why would I want that email to be shared on social media?”

Here’s the answer: Because sharing your emails via social channels encourages faster list growth (14.4% growth versus 8.9%), correlates with a larger average list size (53% larger!), and results in higher clickthrough rates on your emails (5.7% greater). (Stats via Constant Contact.)

Don’t worry about who’s seeing your email content on social. If you must, change your language from “exclusive” to “sneak peek” or “first look,” but whatever you do, let the people who want to share your best work with the world do it with ease.

We go deeper into these topics, as well as Mistakes #1-6, in the “A-Ha!” Tribe. All webinars are available for you on-demand, along with Expert Interviews and an active international Facebook mastermind group. Learn more about the #AhaTribe and join today!

Instagram MarketingIn researching and bolstering our knowledge for the “A-Ha!” Tribe‘s Private Webinar on Instagram Marketing, we kept coming across one consistent piece of advice for Instagram users:

“Take Better Pictures.”

This, frankly, isn’t very helpful advice by itself. And it’s not often accompanied by actual helpful info – instead, it’s usually paired with something along the lines of, “Find out what your audience likes, and do that.”

We’re not professional photographers ourselves, and neither is 95% of the general population. So how are we supposed to suddenly take better pictures?!

That’s just one of the topics we tackled in the private webinar, “Instagram Marketing: Putting Your Visual Content Strategy Into Overdrive With 23 Savvy Tips, Tricks, Tools, and More.” In fact, it was tip #10. :-)

You may have this challenge, too, so we thought we’d share this example from the webinar with you!

The Rule of Thirds

Take Better Instagram Pictures


So, check out the two photos in the slide from our presentation. The one on the right looks a lot better, doesn’t it? That’s because it’s following the Rule of Thirds.

Imagine your pictures divided into three rows and three columns, like you see with these examples. See the four intersections, where the red dots are? Those are visual areas of interest that we as humans seem naturally drawn to. Also, anything visually interesting that can run along one of those lines through the photo is supposed to be very pleasing to your eyes and ours, too.

If you’re using the camera in your smartphone, chances are it has a setting where you can layer Rule of Thirds lines on your camera’s screen, so that way you can line up the perfect shot!

Some other things to keep in mind:

Background. No photo bombers! Be conscious of what the scene looks like behind the person, place, or thing you want to capture. Does it support the feeling of the image you want to convey? If so, great! If not, start moving around to create a better look.

Filters. Did you know? Mayfair is the native Instagram filter that gets the best engagement? And, you’re not limited to Instagram’s filters. Use another app like Snapseed, Litely, or VSCO Cam to play with different filters, and import THAT into Instagram with none of IG’s filters applied!

Lighting. Some things you can fix with filters, and some you can’t. Make sure you’ve got enough light to clearly capture your moment. Not staring-into-the-sun harsh! (Unless that’s an effect you’re trying to achieve.) For shooting people, it’s enough light to give their faces a bit of definition and depth, but not enough to create big shadows.

Now, we turn it over to you! What are some of your favorite tips for taking better pictures – on Instagram or elsewhere? Let us know in the comments!

Full Instagram Marketing Webinar Access

And, if you want to get access to the full Instagram Marketing webinar on demand, plus all 14 of the social media, marketing, and success webinars that came before it, check out (and join!) join the “A-Ha!” Tribe right now.


We started Epiphanies, Inc. more than 10 years ago, and I must say, I’d forgotten what it was like to start from the beginning. Oh sure, you get a sense of it when, for example, you set up new social media profiles and have to build from zero. That’s one thing. Kicking off a whole brand and content empire from zero? Whole new ballgame entirely.

The Combustion of the Idea

Here’s how the combustion happened:

1. I’ve been nursing a deep desire to do something creative for some time now.

2. We (Lani and I) spent a good part of May and June at Epiphanies, Inc. talking about content leverage and amplification to workshop audiences in New Hampshire and Vermont.

3. We joined John Lee DumasPodcasters Paradise late last year, and had been talking about launching a podcast since January of last year. As in 2013!

When we tell people we know what it’s like to have an idea you love and not have the time to pursue it, we really mean it. :-) Oh, and there’s one other (big) thing:

4. Disney and Lucasfilm are working on a new Star Wars trilogy, with additional stand-alone films in between the trilogy releases.

Allen Voivod, your Star Wars 7x7 host I’m a HUGE fan of the movies, though I’d given up hope that there’d be more after Revenge of the Sith. Lucas had long said there were nine movies in his story cycle, but in recent years had backed away from that, and claimed that six were all he had in him. So with those four things slammed together in my head, and with a lot of insight and support from Lani, Star Wars 7×7 began to take shape.

The Star Wars 7×7 Podcast

In one month, here’s what we did together, with branded visuals from the inestimable Kevin Skarritt of Flock Marketing:

* Launched a new website

* Opened channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

* Set up accounts on Libsyn (to store and syndicate the podcast MP3 files), iTunes and Stitcher (to make the podcast easily available to the world)

* Chose sound clips and music to use within the podcast

* Scripted 3 intros and outros for the podcast

* Scripted three versions of advertisements for the :15 and :30 ad placement spots

* Ordered up 3 different professional voiceover intros to give some variety to the opening of the podcast

* Designed a template for the content of the podcast

* Built a profile on Patreon, with customized rewards for people who choose to support the podcast

Those last two items are particularly important. When we were thinking about the content, one thing kept popping up. A lot of the podcasts I enjoy (in the Star Wars world, and outside of it) run for 1-2 hours, and lots of them come out weekly at best. We thought there was a market and a need to do something shorter, and to do it more often. That’s when the sevens started coming together.

The 7s

I can’t remember whether it was Lani’s idea or mine (probably hers), but we came up with the idea of doing a 7-minute podcast, 7 days a week. We targeted a launch date of 7/7/14 at the suggestion of our good friend the artist Kate Lemay, who happens to paint stunning works based on the 7 chakras. And the fact that I first saw Star Wars in ’77, the year I turned 7…well, by that point it all seemed like destiny. (Heck, in what’s possibly the one crazy impulsive thing I’ve done in my life, I got a tattoo on my upper arm while on a business trip in Florida many years ago. The tattoo? A playing card… the 7 of Hearts.)

The one trick: As I started to talk publicly about 7/7 being the launch, I had to contend with the fact that 7/7 was the Monday after Independence Day (on the previous Friday), and I had submitted the podcast for approval by iTunes on July 4th. Would they review it in time and make it available by the 7th?

Yes. Yes they did. And so did Stitcher, which was the recommended solution for Android podcast listeners. So that took care of the podcast itself. And then there was that other important item.


Seems like people have become generally familiar with the idea of crowdfunding, via services like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, IndieGoGo and the like. Well, Patreon is a little different. It’s definitely focused on creative types, and it’s meant to fund ongoing creations. You can support people per creation (like a new short video release, or a new podcast episode), or you can support the creators on a per-month basis. You can set up entirely customized levels of support as well. This is what I did for #SW7X7.

Some levels for Star Wars 7×7 on Patreon may get you a shoutout on the podcast itself, or reward you with a Vine video or a personalized haiku. Others grant behind-the-scenes access, exclusive Google+ Hangouts, and more options that let supporters get closer to the creative process.

My hope is that the daily content I share is appreciated by other fun-loving Star Wars fans like me. My goal is to give a daily dose of intergalactic joy to everyone who tunes in. Also, I’ve made the podcast kid-friendly, so other dads (like me) can listen to the podcast with their own children, and share their passion for the films with a new generation of fans.

Star Wars 7x7

Yes, I’m definitely hoping for benevolent patrons who don’t mind throwing a few bucks in the busker’s case, so to speak, every month.

Counting on the fiscal kindness of strangers is something new for me, and I’ll be honest: I’m not the kind of guy who’s wildly comfortable putting myself out there like this!

But I truly hope that this podcast will matter to lightsaber- and blaster-carrying kindred. Considering the millions of Star Wars fans around the world – ranging from maniacal to casual and everything in between – even a small fraction of supportive listeners would mean the world to me. After all, “I’m nice men.” :-)

I did mention the fact that there are advertisement spots within the podcast, too. We’re welcoming Founding Sponsors to get involved for three-month stints. The cool thing is, the rate gets locked in, and the podcast keeps growing consistently. In other words, the sooner sponsors get in the game, the sooner they get to take advantage of the rapidly increasing audience explosion.

On the Air!

So that’s it – it’s alive! The Star Wars 7×7 Podcast: Rebel-rousing fun for everyday Jedi, 7 minutes a day, 7 days a week. Destiny unleashed! I’m coming up on my 50th episode already, and the podcast has been downloaded thousands of times in 27 countries. Our active Facebook page is nearing 600 Likers, and our breaking news Twitter feed is about to cross the 1,000-tweet threshold. We’ve hit #1 in iTunes’ “New and Noteworthy” list for Performing Arts, #1 in Hobbies, #9 in TV & Film, and in the Top 50 overall (#49).

And it’s just me! (With support from Lani, of course. :-) ) No podcast network to support it. No brand established on another channel that could catapult it, the way the Daily Show’s podcast launched from zero to #1 in no time. Yes, I’m a little jealous of that, and more so, I’m super grateful for the fact that I’m just one guy with passion, and an idea that’s catching on in greater numbers, day after day.

We’ll be sharing updates about this new entrepreneurial adventure as we go and grow. In the meantime, please check out the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and the website itself. We’d love to hear what you think!

The State of New Hampshire on Facebook, 2014 EditionYes, “The State of New Hampshire on Facebook.” This is the workshop based on the upcoming 2nd annual report, created with a not-so-secret agenda! You’ll find the presentation embedded below, as well as the live recording of the Google Hangout on Air. Thanks so much to the  Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce for inviting us back for the third year in a row to be part of their Summer Social Media Series. It’s always a joy, and everyone there is wonderful.

But back to the story. Sure, the presentation and workshop provide a lot of insight into the people in New Hampshire who use Facebook. (About 3 out of 4 age-eligible folks, growing 15% over the last three years to 740,000 people!) Age and gender, mobile use, interests, sociographics, and more, it’s all in there. Not to mention a discussion of “Behaviors” and the info inside “Partner Categories” – no way we could cover all that in an hour workshop, because that data goes deep AND wide.

So that’ll give you a hint about the not-so-secret agenda. Even though it says it’s about the state of New Hampshire on Facebook, what it REALLY does is give a glimpse into what’s possible for you and your business or organization. As one of your Allies in Possibility here at Epiphanies, Inc., how could I resist!?

What Non-Granite-Staters Get From It

Now, if you don’t live in New Hampshire, you can still glean some very powerful things from these resources:

1. Knowledge of the kind of insights you can discover about your own target market inside Facebook, wherever they may reside

2. Internal and external trends powering change inside Facebook, and their implications for your marketing strategy

3. Important resources for finding, learning about, and targeting ads more effectively to your Ideal Audience on Facebook

If that doesn’t float your boat, well, heck, buoyancy may not be your only challenge!  ;)

The State of NH on Facebook Presentation and Workshop Video

If for any reason you can’t see the embedded items below, click here to see the presentation on Slideshare, and click here to watch the Hangout on Air recording on YouTube!


VacationLani and I are taking a much needed vacation, off with the kids to Martha’s Vineyard for a week.

When’s the last time YOU took a vacation? If you’re an entrepreneur or the head of of your own business, there’s a good chance you may not even remember. Our winter in New Hampshire seemed like it went on forever, and it’s taken us a few days to shake off and shake up our dulled senses and blunted gusto.

Ever notice that yourself? That even when you step away for a time, to get some fresh perspective on your life or business, that it takes a little while to get past the superficial stuff and get down to the real, meaningful matters…

Rediscover Yourself

We’re rediscovering ourselves here. If you can’t take a vacation right now to rediscover your own passions and desires, then we encourage you to take 10 minutes out of your day to answer this question:

Who are you when you’re on vacation?

If the answer is very far removed from what your life looks like right now, then it might be time for a change. Even a small one.

What will it be?

Facebook Start to Success ProgramYou’d like to spend less on your Facebook Ad campaigns and get more out of them, right? Of course you would. :)

So, let’s focus on the “spend less” portion in this post. I’ve been meeting with an Account Manager and Client Partner at Facebook in recent weeks, and regardless of whether you’re running cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-impression (CPM) campaigns, there’s one mistake that advertisers make which drives up their costs for absolutely no good reason.

Just one of the benefits of our new partnership with Facebook through the “Start to Success” program is insider information like this, which we get to share with you! To make it as easy as possible, I break down the details in one minute flat in the video embedded below. (Can’t see it? Check it out on YouTube, and subscribe to our channel while you’re there, will ya?)

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Dreaming is at the heart of disruption. - Whitney Johnson

“Dreaming is at the heart of disruption.” Whitney Johnson, at #Inbound13 last month. Need a little (or a big!) shake-up in your business, or in your personal life? That’s what we’re talking about. Here’s a deeper dive into the whole dreaming thing, courtesy of the 31 Days of Possibility. Dream it first. That’s how the most powerful moves you make in your world ever get started.

So…what are YOU dreaming about? And what are you doing about it?

Finding the Opportunities Within Your ChallengesHow do you quantify the marketing ROI of a $40 late fee on a video rental that turns into a $4 billion business with more than 2,000 employees?

That’s the story of the founding of Netflix, and of entrepreneur Reed Hastings, who started the company after getting hit with that fee on a video rental of Apollo 13.

In the aftermath of a presentation on the business value of “The Unmeasurable” (delivered as part of a “Back to Business” workshop put on by Constant Contact), Epiphanies, Inc. co-owner and Ally in Possibility Allen Voivod encourages YOU to look at everything that happens in your business – good, bad, or indifferent – as a potential opportunity for you.

Maybe they won’t all turn out to be opportunities, but the more you open your mind to thinking in this way, the more likely you’ll be able to create opportunities for yourself where no one else could have seen them. Watch it, and train your brain!

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